One (of several) epiphanies I had at VMworld occurred during an extended discussion with Jeetu Patel, GM of EMC’s Syncplicity business unit, about the importance the company places on its mobile app usability and design. The revelation was that a company better known for its big storage iron could nurture a software division that can teach many Silicon Valley startups a few things about app design, usability and quality. As I write in this column, mobile devices have created a renaissance for user interface designers that are simultaneously trying to exploit their attributes of tactile, high-resolution screens accessible in any situation, while mitigating their drawbacks of limited screen real estate, lack of a physical keyboard and a single app per screen focus. Together, these create both opportunities and challenges for application developers. With at least 1.2 million titles on Apple’s App Store having been collectively downloaded over 75 billion times, and Google’s Android Play Store reporting nearly identical numbers, it’s clear mobile apps are big business with a huge audience.
As I discuss in detail, while Apple and a few standout developers may be best known for elegant apps, few people would associate a division of EMC, the storage hardware provider to enterprise IT, more known for its big storage arrays than mobile app finesse, as one of today’s most innovative mobile developers. Yet give the company’s Syncplicity title a spin and tell me it’s not one of the slickest, most well-designed, intuitive and beautiful apps you’ve seen.